It’s not the first time Senator John McCain has endorsed a nuclear weapons free world, but his floor speech today is still significant. The bipartisan consensus that a nuclear weapons free world is necessary is strong and growing. While McCain didn’t come out in favor of all the steps necessary to reach that goal, he did touch on the importance of nonproliferation efforts and beginning nuclear weapons reductions, while remaining vague about how deep of a reduction he would support in the near term.
Here are some highlights:
Speaking before the Japanese Diet on November 11, 1983, President Ronald Reagan said, “The only value in possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they can’t be used ever. I know I speak for people everywhere when I say our dream is to see the day when nuclear weapons will be banished from the face of the Earth.” That is my dream, too, and it is one shared by many of our most distinguished national security practitioners. In 2007, former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, along with former Secretary of Defense William Perry and Senator Sam Nunn, authored an article titled “A World Free of Nuclear Weapons,” in which they laid out their vision of the globe free of the most dangerous weapons ever known….
But the Cold War ended almost twenty years ago, and the time has come to take further measures to reduce dramatically the number of nuclear weapons in the world’s arsenals. In so doing, the United States can – and indeed, must – show the kind of leadership the world expects from us, in the tradition of American presidents who worked to reduce the nuclear threat to mankind.
President Obama repsonded to McCain’s speech:
“I welcome Senator McCain’s important statement on President Reagan’s legacy and the need to move toward a world free of nuclear weapons,” the President said, adding that he “look[s] forward to working with Senator McCain and the entire Congress to ensure that we accomplish these goals together for the American people and the security of the entire planet.”
The Hill follows up with some of the implications for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which bans nuclear weapons testing:
McCain opposed the CTBT when it came up for a vote in 1999 but said during the campaign that it was time to reconsider the measure. In his speech today, he was deliberately vague, saying the treaty was one of “a number of important decisions in the coming months.”
Obama, for his part, pledged during his Prague speech to push for ratification “aggressively and immediately.”
As an international treaty, the CTBT needs 67 votes to pass, and McCain’s support is seen as crucial in convincing a number of moderate Republicans to sign on.